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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Motorways: Time to slow down?
Motorists are lucky to get out of second gear on some stretches of motorway, but is reducing the speed limit the solution to gridlock hell?Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
The UK Government is considering reducing the speed limit on some motorways to 50 miles per hour to deal with the congested traffic hotspots during the rush hour.
UK motoring organisation, the RAC, welcomed the idea of variable speed limits in problem areas like Birmingham, but warned that it should not become a backdoor way of lowering limits permanently on all motorways.
Perhaps better sign posting would help. Sometimes the leftmost lane of a motorway breaks away from the main road to form a new road, forcing people in that lane to fight their way back into a stream of traffic. If this wasn't done so often people would have one less reason to hang onto their position in the middle lane.
Build express lanes and lanes for local traffic.
Houston has a great system with 4 lanes for express traffic and outside lanes for local traffic.
Paul S, UK
Variable speed limits have worked on the M25 and would undoubtedly help benefit the really congested areas of motorway throughout the UK. However, it would be stupid to have a lower speed limit outside of peak periods. In some parts of the motorways system, the Government should balance things out by increasing the speed limit to 80 mph.
I have a better idea for helping reduce congestion. Why not ban lorries and coaches from overtaking in peak periods, thus allowing the middle and outside lanes to flow better?
Remove people's need to travel and the problem of congestion will solve itself.
There should be legislation against people who drive more that 50 miles to work on their own.
In my experience all the accidents I have seen on the motorway have been to do with people moving into the middle lane and fast lanes at unexpected moments like when they see a lorry in the slow lane about 2 miles up the road. It is more important to teach people lane discipline and how to indicate that they are changing lane than reduce the speed limit.
I see that Nigel from UK has managed to bring the issue of 'female drivers' into this subject. I am not going to even respond to your logic regarding speed, but your comment about female drivers, is disgraceful and insulting.
It also tells us, you are a bad driver.
Ban all traffic. Except me!
Eileen B, England
Reducing speed limits during peak traffic periods works. Those who have the misfortune to use the M25 see this everyday.
The traffic is far more apt to continuously move, rather than stopping and starting, thus giving rise to considerable fuel savings. I know that my car's fuel economy rises by 25% when it is driven at 50mph when compared with 70mph.
Reducing the speed limit does save petrol - having commuted 100 miles a day for over 10 years I have proved that to my own satisfaction. Haven't variable speed limits on the M25 already proved that this cuts congestion? What really makes me furious is having some nerd trying to force me into the slow lane when I'm already doing 80 so that he (and it's always a he) doesn't have to move into the fast lane. It seems that at least during the rush hour the effective speed limit is 90 rather than 70.
Abbi Higgins, England
Why bother with changing the speed limit? Surely it would be far better to educate drivers in using the motorways properly, rather than sitting in the middle lane and turning them into dual carriageways. The sooner people realise that you are in fact ALLOWED to use the inside lane for cars as well as lorries, we could all get from A to B much quicker.
Excellent solution, Paul B. Let's just tarmac the
whole country and be done with it!
Or we could attempt to use a little intelligence
and release ourselves from the
comfort blanket of the motorcar.
I'd like to see a reduced speed limit
at rush hours only. This could
reduce the number of accidents. Why not ban certain
vehicles from using SOME roads at that time too - e.g. heavy, slow lorries?
I don't agree with one previous comment about
lower speed = more petrol though. 50mph is much
closer to the "magic" 56mph than 90+mph!
Perhaps I'm missing something, but surely at 'rush hour' the typical speed on motorways is around 30mph, due to 'sheer weight of traffic'.
I notice a couple of responses from 'luddites', well if you don't like driving a sensible speeds, I suggest public transport is a viable option.
Over here in Germany the 'autobahns' are unlimited speed limits in many areas. The problem's here relate primarily to too much construction, only having 2 lanes in many areas and some parts of the motorways with variable speed limits (yes, this is in fact causing traffic hold-ups where there previously were none).
The only way to reduce congestion is to raise taxes, thus pricing the poor off the roads and at the same time allowing more space for my lovely Jag.
I don't think it will change things much. Let's face it, just about everyone breaks the speed limits anyway.
Slower motorway speeds! I thought the sensible money was on increasing them in line with our more enlightened continental friends. It's 80 mph in France and unlimited in Germany. The way it's going in this country, it will soon be time to get my coat!
Perhaps we should take this argument to its logical conclusion. If we reduce the speed limit to zero mph, we will have a 100% reduction in traffic accidents. We will solve the road building problem in one fell swoop. We will not have a problem parking in our cities, since you can just use the empty motorways, if you can get there doing 0 mph that is.
They say it works. How? If traffic is slowed down, it is forced to spend longer on the motorway. If traffic is crawling, how can a 50 mph limit help as no one can reach it? Sorry to be simplistic, but I can't see the maths or the logic.
Paul B, UK
Slower speeds = more petrol used, therefore yet more money in petrol taxes to the government
It's not a bad idea, true, but the Government really should realise that the only way to reduce levels of congestion is to reduce the amount of cars on the road in the first place. Instead of investing in new signposts and speed cameras, why not try and encourage people to car share At this point I suppose I should say we should all travel by train, but the train service is crumbling and feeble and a bit of a money pit anyway. It can't handle the passengers it has at the moment!
Peter Fisher, England
How about 2 motorways - one for the nutters in 4x4s and BMWs etc to travel on at any speed they like and another for normal people who are capable of travelling at 50mph.
The problem that I see on both A roads and motorways has little to do with speed limits, but with lane discipline. A lot of people seem to believe that the outside lane is the "fast" lane, so that must be the one to travel in -leaving lanes 1 and 2 almost empty. If you pass the slower moving traffic on your right you leave yourself open to police attention for undertaking, maybe the government should enforce the highway code (keep left unless overtaking) or even go with the states and allow us to over take on the left.
We should be talking about raising the speed limits in suitable areas and introducing more minimum speed limits. How many times have you seen Mr 30mph crawling along a dual carriageway forcing all the trucks and coaches into the overtaking lane, now THAT's dangerous!
Gerry Anstey, England
It is completely misguided. The speed limit should be 'safe and prudent'. Around the M4 / M25 intersection in the rain this could be 40 mph. On the M45 in the dry it could be 150 mph in a good car with a competent driver. This works well in Montana, USA, I see no reason why it can't work in the UK. The danger of low speed limits (50 mph) is that the driver's concentration tends to lapse as they get bored and find themselves in an accident which then cripples the Motorway giving tailbacks for miles.
It's all a question of setting an appropriate limit to suit the conditions. The feeble driving test and lack of on-going training ensures that the average British driver is incapable of doing this by themselves, so I think variable limits are a good idea. They work very well on the M25. A permanent 50mph limit would be a disaster though, prolonging congestion when the volume of traffic subsides.
If the Government is going to lower the speed limit on motorways, they must consider the effect on the "A" roads that run along the same routes. With a higher average speed limit, drivers will use these roads thus pushing the level of traffic up and totally defeating the purpose of the motorway network.
Speed limits were introduced for one reason only - safety. Modern cars on a motorway are far safer than they were in the past. Increase the speed limit on motorways and put variable speed limits where they belong - outside schools, stations etc.
Interesting idea, but won't it simply move the problem to another section of motorway? If traffic is travelling at 70mph and has to slow down for a 50mph section, then there will be a tailback leading up to the 50mph section (this is simple queuing theory).
With a small helicopter costing the same to buy and run as a luxury saloon car (a BMW 7 series or a Merc S class for example), it amazes me that more people don't take to the skies!
In March I was driving along the
M8 (inside lane) and was pulled over by the police.
The policeman got out of his Range Rover,
walked up to my car and said "if you or your
car are incapable of driving any faster you
shouldn't be on the motorway".
Of course I was driving at 45mph which would
be slightly below the proposed 50mph limit. I
wonder if he got the slow moving trucks
to pull over as they were struggling up the hill
(in the same lane) a few miles back?
Phil W, UK
Who are they trying to kid? When I am on the M25 at rush hour the speed "never" gets higher than 30 MPH anyway. No doubt some busybody will try to force us all onto state run buses soon. Next stop Leningrad.
The 55mph limit around Washington DC ring road still makes it look just like
the M25 to me in terms of traffic density in the mornings. But it does move along unlike
the M25 but well below the speed limit. There are 4 lanes plus a lane for cars with 2
or more passengers. It strikes me there is just more room for the traffic here than on the M25.
The speed limit seems like a good cover up for just spending more on roads in the UK so the
over taxed and constantly blamed drives can just get to work in the morning.
Yes the RAC is correct. Experiments have shown that travelling at slower speeds can get you to your destination quicker when roads are congested. But speed enforcement cameras are needed. With the advent of digital cameras the issue of fixed penalties can be computerised which makes such operations much more feasible.
Jo Perrett, London, UK
No it will not help at all and is a rather backward idea.
Congestion will only be reduced when far less cars are released on the highways. As that is not being resolved and good intentions to get car drivers out of their cars will fail without adequate public transport, the problem remains.
How can anyone believe that going to 50mph will help the volume on the road? Any child with good GCSE results can calculate that.
Variable speed limits work, however much we the driving public hate to admit it. However so do increased limits where the conditions allow. If the Government is happy to slow us down is the 'sticky' bits why can't we speed up in the empty bits?
This is not to mention the financial burden the motorist bears, as Tony Blair said the NHS is dependent on cars and trucks. Considering the amount of duty that is not re-circulated to the transport system at present, I find it inconceivable that all or even any monies generated from tolls would go towards transport.
Keith Lomax, UK
I generally travel at slower speeds anyway and suffer zero stress and get to my destination at the same time or only slightly later than those who race to the next junction/roundabout/traffic jam.
Lower speeds would reduce congestion, stress, pollution, road wear and the gross fuel consumption of this country.
I would also ban the manufacture of high performance cars.
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